Why You Do What You Do: An Insight Into Intrinsic Motivation

Discover what is intrinsic motivation and how it shapes your actions. Explore its role in personal growth.

Understanding Motivation

Motivation is a powerful force that propels us towards our goals and ambitions.

It is the internal drive that pushes us to act, to strive, and to persevere.

But what exactly is motivation, and how does it work?

What is Motivation?

Motivation is defined as the psychological processes that initiate, guide, and maintain goal-oriented behaviors.

It involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.

In simpler terms, motivation is what causes you to act, whether it is getting a glass of water when you are thirsty or reading a book to gain knowledge.

There are two primary sources of motivation: the desire to achieve a reward or the wish to avoid a punishment.

This drive can come from within (intrinsic motivation) or from external factors (extrinsic motivation).

The Two Types of Motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic

Intrinsic motivation comes from within yourself.

It is driven by personal satisfaction, enjoyment, interest, or the sense of personal challenge.

For example, you might read a book because you find the topic fascinating, or you might solve a crossword puzzle because you enjoy the challenge.

The reward is the activity itself, not an external prize.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from outside factors and is driven by rewards such as praise, money, fame, or grades.

For instance, you might study hard to get a high grade in a class or work late to earn overtime pay.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can influence behavior, but they do so in different ways and are influenced by different factors.

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If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between these two types of motivation, check out our article on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Understanding the nature of motivation can help you to better understand why you do the things you do.

It can provide insight into your own behaviors and goals, and help you to harness your motivation more effectively.

In the next section, we will dive deeper into the concept of intrinsic motivation, exploring how it works and why it is such a powerful force in our lives.

Diving Deeper into Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is a fascinating aspect of psychology that affects our behaviors, decisions, and actions.

Let’s delve deeper into what intrinsic motivation is and how it works.

Defining Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to the drive to engage in an activity for its own sake, for the enjoyment it provides, or for the sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment it brings.

Unlike extrinsic motivation, where external influences such as rewards or punishments drive behavior, intrinsic motivation comes from within.

You’re intrinsically motivated when you do something because you find it genuinely fulfilling and enjoyable.

For instance, if you love painting and spend hours creating art simply because it makes you happy, you’re intrinsically motivated.

The joy of painting itself, not external recognition or rewards, fuels your passion.

If you want to understand more about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, explore our article on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

How Intrinsic Motivation Works

Intrinsic motivation is closely linked to our personal interests, passions, and values.

It’s the driving force behind our hobbies, passions, and activities that we undertake even without a tangible reward.

This form of motivation is often tied to activities that fulfill our psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, as per the Self-Determination Theory.

Autonomy refers to our need to feel control over our actions and choices.

Competence involves our desire to master a skill or task.

Relatedness is our need to feel connected to others and experience a sense of belonging.

For instance, you might learn to play an instrument (competence) because you enjoy the process of mastering a new skill, even if it’s challenging.

You choose to practice regularly (autonomy) because you love music and enjoy expressing yourself through it.

You may join a local band or music group (relatedness) to connect with other music enthusiasts, not because you’re expected to or because someone else wants you to.

Intrinsic motivation fuels lifelong learning and personal growth.

It can lead to increased creativity, productivity, and well-being.

Understanding and harnessing intrinsic motivation can be a powerful tool in various aspects of life, from education and career to personal hobbies and relationships.

To understand more about how psychological theories, including those about motivation, shape our understanding of human behavior, check out our collection of articles on psychological theories.

The Psychology Behind Intrinsic Motivation

In the realm of psychology, intrinsic motivation holds a significant role.

It underpins our understanding of why we engage in certain behaviors and how we can harness our individual motivations to achieve our goals.

The Role of Intrinsic Motivation in Psychology

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive that propels you to engage in an activity for its own sake, rather than for an external reward.

It’s the force that pushes you to read a book because you enjoy the storyline, or to run a marathon because you love the feeling of accomplishment.

Psychologists view intrinsic motivation as a critical component of human behavior.

It is associated with higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and overall well-being.

When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’re more likely to take on challenges, persevere in the face of difficulties, and experience a sense of fulfillment.

Intrinsic motivation also plays a key role in the process of learning and development.

It fosters curiosity, creativity, and a desire for mastery, which are essential for acquiring new skills and knowledge.

For instance, a student who is intrinsically motivated to learn about psychological theories is more likely to delve deeper into the subject, ask insightful questions, and retain the information for longer periods.

Theories of Intrinsic Motivation

Several psychological theories have attempted to explain the mechanisms behind intrinsic motivation.

Here are a few key theories:

  1. Self-Determination Theory (SDT): This theory, proposed by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, suggests that intrinsic motivation is driven by three basic psychological needs: autonomy (the desire to be self-directed), competence (the need to master tasks), and relatedness (the desire to connect with others).

  2. Flow Theory: Coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this theory describes a state of “flow” or “being in the zone”, which is achieved when you’re fully immersed and enjoying an activity. This state is often linked to high levels of intrinsic motivation.

  3. Goal Setting Theory: According to this theory, setting challenging and specific goals can enhance intrinsic motivation. The satisfaction derived from achieving these goals further fuels motivation.

TheoryKey Concept
Self-Determination TheoryAutonomy, competence, and relatedness drive intrinsic motivation
Flow TheoryFull immersion and enjoyment in an activity enhance intrinsic motivation
Goal Setting TheorySetting and achieving challenging goals boost intrinsic motivation

These theories provide insights into the complex nature of intrinsic motivation.

They highlight the need for autonomy, competence, relatedness, flow, and goal setting in fostering intrinsic motivation.

By understanding these concepts, you can better understand why you do what you do and how to leverage your intrinsic motivation to reach your personal and professional goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about the field of psychology, check out our introduction to psychology article.

Intrinsic Motivation in Everyday Life

Intrinsic motivation drives us to do things that fulfill us personally rather than for some external reward.

Below, let’s explore some examples of intrinsic motivation and learn how to identify it in our own behaviors.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is all around us and is often the driving force behind many of our everyday actions.

Here are some examples:

  1. Reading a book for pleasure: When you read a book because you enjoy the story or the writing style, and not because you have to write a report on it, your motivation is intrinsic.
  2. Exercising regularly: If you work out because it makes you feel good and improves your health, rather than to impress others, it’s an example of intrinsic motivation.
  3. Learning a new skill: Choosing to learn a new language, how to play a musical instrument, or how to code because you find it interesting and satisfying is driven by intrinsic motivation.

These examples illustrate that intrinsic motivation is about personal satisfaction and enjoyment.

It’s the sense of fulfillment you get from doing something you love, not because of an external reward or pressure.

How to Identify Intrinsic Motivation

Identifying intrinsic motivation in your own behaviors can help you better understand why you do what you do, which is a key aspect of self-awareness.

Here are some questions you can ask to help identify if your motivation is intrinsic:

  • Do you engage in the activity because you enjoy it, or because you want to achieve a certain outcome?
  • Do you feel excited and energized when you think about the activity?
  • Would you still engage in the activity even if there were no rewards or recognition involved?

If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, it’s likely that your motivation is intrinsic.

Recognizing this can empower you to pursue passions and hobbies that bring you genuine enjoyment and personal growth.

Understanding intrinsic motivation can be a key component of personal development and well-being.

It can help you make choices that align with your personal interests and values, leading to greater satisfaction and happiness in life.

To learn more about the different types of motivation, check our article on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation, the inner drive that pushes you to engage in activities for personal fulfillment, can be a powerful tool for fostering personal growth and well-being.

Here, we’ll elaborate on strategies to enhance your intrinsic motivation and discuss its impact on your overall development.

Strategies for Fostering Intrinsic Motivation

To nurture your intrinsic motivation, there are several strategies you can adopt.


Align with Personal Interests and Passions: Engage in activities that resonate with your personal interests and passions.

This alignment helps to naturally enhance your intrinsic motivation.


Set Personal Goals: Establishing personal goals can provide a clear direction and purpose, driving your intrinsic motivation.

Ensure these goals are challenging yet achievable.


Seek Out New Experiences: Trying new things can stimulate your curiosity and drive your intrinsic motivation.

New experiences can also expand your perspective and enrich your personal growth.


Foster a Growth Mindset: Embrace challenges, persevere in the face of setbacks, and understand that effort is a path to mastery.

This growth mindset can fuel your intrinsic motivation.


Practice Self-Reflection: Regularly reflect on your experiences, feelings, and thoughts.

This self-awareness can help identify what truly motivates you.

Remember, these strategies are not one-size-fits-all.

Experiment with different approaches and find what works best for you.

For more insights into motivation, refer to our article on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

The Impact of Intrinsic Motivation on Personal Growth and Well-being

Intrinsic motivation can have a profound impact on your personal growth and well-being.

When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’re more likely to engage in activities that challenge you and contribute to your personal development.

This can lead to increased competence, improved skills, and greater self-efficacy.

Moreover, intrinsic motivation can significantly enhance your well-being.

Engaging in activities that you find genuinely rewarding can promote happiness, reduce stress, and improve mental health.

This positive emotional state can, in turn, fuel your intrinsic motivation, creating a positive feedback loop.

In a broader context, intrinsic motivation can guide your career choices, educational pursuits, and personal hobbies.

It can influence your long-term goals and aspirations, shaping your life’s trajectory in meaningful ways.

Understanding and cultivating intrinsic motivation can be a powerful tool for personal growth and well-being.

As you delve deeper into your own motivations, you may gain valuable insights that can guide your personal and professional journey.

For more on this topic, explore our introduction to psychology series.